On 23rd March 2020 the country entered lockdown. Three months before barely anyone had heard of Covid, by March we were confronting a pandemic that would cause devastation across the word and has caused so much loss and hurt.
It is surreal to think back over the issues we faced then and since as we fought the impact of the disease.
As global air travel ground to a halt we saw the economic consequences locally while constituents were desperate to return from countries as varied as Peru and Nepal. At home access to food shopping became a national worry – and local support groups sprung up to provide help to those in need.
The impact of the pandemic was felt throughout society – children at home with schools doing their utmost to master on-line teaching. Employees adapting to the new environment and so many people from food retail workers to bus drivers keeping going to provide vital services – above all, in the most exhausting, remorseless and difficult conditions, our NHS workers.
May’s 75th Anniversary of VE Day was intended to be a national celebration of the resilience of a generation that faced down the Nazi threat. The event proved all the more poignant given the particular suffering of that very generation – and how in very different circumstances society was pulling together to the help each other face a new challenge.
The summer proved but a gap between the two waves and Covid’s return was intensified by the far more infectious Kent variant and, even though brilliant NHS work had pioneered new techniques and life saving drugs their wards were again full as lockdown had to be reimposed.
While the focus has always been saving lives. Everyone is acutely aware of the consequences of lockdown: on children, on those denied vital family contact and on those facing dire financial consequences as a result of Covid. By January 2,486 Horsham businesses had received Bounce Back Loans worth over £75 million. The Furlough scheme was delivered to sustain as many people as possible through to better times – especially critical in areas like ours near Gatwick where the impact has inevitably been especially acute.
We could not have imagined last year what Covid would bring but nor were we aware that even then, in Oxford and elsewhere, brilliant scientists were working on the fastest creation, approval and manufacture of a vaccine in human history. We continue to go through a very bleak time but with every person inoculated there is renewed hope for the future.